Dennis fell back on the couch and closed his eyes. He was so tired that the room was starting to spin, making him feel nauseas, but he couldn’t sleep. There was too much on his mind.
Sheriff Wolseley had volunteered their home as the new headquarters for the ongoing search for the boy; the same boy who had fallen asleep upstairs on Dennis’s bed more than an hour ago. First thing in the morning, people were going to drop in and set up a CB radio in the kitchen and a temporary antenna in the backyard. Everything relating to the search would be passed through their home. People would constantly be coming and going as they changed shifts or needed to warm up. And all of this was for nothing. The boy wasn’t in the woods anymore. He was safe and warm, curled up and snuggled under a quilt and blankets, as people sat outside in the cold staring at a deserted shelter.
“Mom?” Dennis said groggily. “What are we gonna do?”
“I don’t know,” she replied honestly as she pulled a large, plush comforter over Dennis. “But let’s not think about that right now. Go to sleep and we’ll sort everything out in the morning.”
Dennis grabbed the blanket and pulled it up over his shoulder as he nodded and nuzzled into a pillow. “Okay, Mom,” he said as his vision started to flutter and he closed his eyes.
“Huh?” Dennis opened his eyes again. The room was dark and quiet and his mom had disappeared. He turned his head and looked up. He knew someone was there, but it was too dark for him to figure out where.
Dennis rolled onto his side and lifted his head. “Adam?”
“Shhh, everyone’s sleeping,” Dennis whispered as he sat up. “What are you doing?”
Dennis felt the couch’s cushion sink and Adam’s face appeared beside him as he knelt on the floor. “Scary, Dennis.”
“Huh, you? Scared?” Dennis rubbed at his eyes. His voice sounded slurred as he struggled to stay awake. “Are you okay?”
“Oh… no, Dennis. Help me, please?”
“I’m not sure what you want me to do, Adam. Are you thirsty?”
“No Dennis, please.”
Adam was quiet for a moment. All Dennis could hear was his breathing. It sounded strange, laboured, almost like sniffling—like Adam was crying. Dennis couldn’t believe it. The thought that someone as brave and strong as Adam could be crying both baffled him and broke his heart at the same time, and all that he could think to do was lift the front of the blanket for Adam to crawl in.
The couch cushions shifted slightly as Adam laid down beside him and Dennis lowered his arm around Adam’s shoulder, covering him with the blanket and pulling him close. Adam hugged him, their foreheads just barely touching, as the heat from their bodies put their tense muscles at ease.
In the silence of night, Adam’s sobs sounded as loud as thunder. Dennis instinctively circled his fingers against the small of Adam’s back, in the hope that it would comfort him and help him sleep. But something else was happening. He could feel it. It was growing deep in chest, like something had lodged itself in his heart. Something sharp and jagged, becoming bigger by the second and piercing a hole in his lung, making it harder and harder breathe.
Dennis wanted to say something, to tell Adam that everything was all right. But now he wasn’t so sure. Inside he felt like he was dying but every nerve ending tingled, every hair stood on end and he convulsed with shivers as sweat beaded against his brow.
A single tear fell from the tip of Adam’s nose and onto Dennis’s lower lip. Dennis couldn’t understand why, but the moment the moisture touched him he pushed forward and pressed his lips to Adam’s. As soon as they touched, Dennis wanted to pull away and apologize, but he couldn’t. It didn’t feel right. Nothing did. Nothing except Adam’s touch.
Dennis felt guilty, like he was somehow taking advantage of Adam, and he forced himself to stop and move his head back. “Are you okay?” he asked, even though he had meant to apologize.
He could see the whites of Adam’s eyes in the dark. They were glistening with moisture, reflecting the moon’s subtle light, but he didn’t say anything. Instead he tightened his arms around Dennis and burrowed his face against the crook of Dennis’s neck.
They lay there silently, soaking in one another’s warmth. Dennis could feel Adam’s groin pressing against his own. He was stiff, as was Adam, but neither one of them moved.
Dennis could still hear Adam’s sniffles, but they were becoming quieter and further apart as Dennis absentmindedly stroked his fingers through Adam’s hair. At the same time his other hand slowly slid up and down Adam’s spine over his shirt, all the way down to the waist of his sweatpants and back up to his neck. As he continued, on each upward motion, Dennis would pull Adam’s shirt up a bit more and his fingertips would slide across the smooth skin of his back.
Occasionally, he’d trace along the slight bumps of old scars and wonder how Adam got them. Some were probably normal scars, like ones you got from falling out of trees, but others could be from anything; fights with animals, like the cougar Adam had saved him from, or from people, which would explain why Adam was so apprehensive to leave the woods.
It broke Dennis’s heart to think of all the possibilities, all of the things that Adam must have had to endure on his own. But for some reason, the fact that Adam was here, letting him touch his scars, made him feel closer to him somehow; almost as if they were connected.
Dennis’s heart suddenly fluttered and it startled him. His hand had tightly gripped against the back of Adam’s shirt and pulled it up to his shoulder blades without Dennis even realizing it. Adam was quiet now, possibly asleep, but Dennis didn’t want to stop. Not yet.
He released the shirt and placed his open hand on Adam’s back. Despite the scars, his skin was smooth and radiated an aromatic heat that filled Dennis’s lungs and begged him to continue. He slowly moved his hand down Adam’s spine, all the way to the small of his back, and stopped when his pinky finger grazed against Adam’s waistband.
His heart was pounding as strange thoughts flooded through his mind. He wanted more, much more than he should. But he knew that couldn’t happen. It wasn’t right. He wasn’t supposed to want such things, not like this, especially under the circumstances.
But he couldn’t help it, couldn’t control the thoughts. He could already feel his fingers giving in to the temptation as they slowly slid across the elastic band of Adam’s sweatpants. He’d felt the fabric many times before. The pants were his after all; but they were now different somehow. Thinner. Softer. Warmer.
Dennis’s chest was aching as his heart threatened to burst through his ribcage. He moved his hand further down and spread his fingers as far apart as they would go and then gently squeezed the soft flesh of Adam’s backside. Shivers rushed up Dennis’s arms and scattered from his shoulder and consumed his entire body.
Before Dennis could recover, Adam stirred at his side and nearly caused him to throw up from guilt. But instead of pushing him away in disgust, Adam wiggled closer and hummed.
“Is good, Dennis,” he said in a barely audible whisper, obviously half asleep, and he pushed his midsection forward as the heat between his legs twitched and hardened beside Dennis’s.
Dennis couldn’t speak. He felt too good inside. In three simple words, his guilt had crumbled to nothing and was replaced with something else; something indescribable.
The muscles in his arms contracted and he pulled Adam closer to him. Their chests were pressed so close that Dennis could feel Adam’s heart beating against his own, like they were somehow communicating. And yet, Dennis still wanted more.
He wasn’t sure what that was. Not until he felt Adam’s lips press against his neck. The sensation sent even more shivers across his body and his hand instinctively squeezed Adam’s behind again. It tensed and Adam’s hips pushed forward. He could feel Adam’s stiffness through the fabric. It was right beside his own, sliding back and forth and prodding at his groin.
Dennis couldn’t control it. His lips grazed past Adam’s cheek to his ear and he pressed them down just below and behind his jaw. At the same time, he could feel his hips pushing forward into Adam’s as his hands explored his back and ventured downward. By the time his fingers reached the waistband, instead of going further down, back to Adam’s soft behind, they stopped and toyed with the elastic.
His middle finger pried itself underneath, followed by his index finger and thumb. Soon his hand was inching its way downward, further into the darkness. The skin was smoother there, softer and warmer. Dennis couldn’t grasp what he was doing, it was almost too much, and his lips pulled back, slid back across Adam’s cheek to his mouth.
As soon as their lips touched, Dennis squeezed the bare flesh of Adam’s backside and pushed his hips forward. His stomach was churning as something began to tingle inside him. It was a strange, almost-glowing sensation. He could feel it sinking in his stomach and tightening all of the nerves from his chest to his thighs, and it was shrinking fast, condensing and getting stronger by the second.
His body tensed as his insides shivered and quaked with emotion. The feeling inside was now stronger than ever and had concentrated itself to about the size of a dime. Dennis pushed forward again and again as the sensation inside threatened to drive him insane. But he could feel it, ever-building, as it travelled from deep within him, closer with every forward movement, until there was nowhere left to go.
Dennis hugged Adam as tight as he could as a hot, sticky liquid was absorbed into the fabric between them. Adam, however, continued to rock back and forth at an increasing speed. Dennis tried not to squirm as his overly-sensitive nerves begged for the motion to stop. But Adam only held onto him tighter with his lips pressed firmly against the crook of Dennis’s neck—until it happened. Adam’s entire body became tense as he pushed his groin into Dennis’s one last time. His body shook slightly, like he had the chills, and then all of his muscles fell limp at the same time.
After a brief moment of unmoving silence, Adam began to shake, as if he were crying. But just before Dennis could think to ask him what was wrong, he heard laughter. It was muffled, but definitely a case of the guilty-giggles. Dennis smiled, too tired to laugh or even speak, and stroked his fingers through Adam’s hair. Adam hummed again, his voice raspy with adrenaline, as Dennis parted his lips and inhaled Adam’s breath. He could feel the boy’s life inside him. They were connected. Inseparable.